The Sherando Cliffs and Lakeside Loop Hike is a short hike -- less than 2 miles for the entire loop -- with minimal elevation gain (300 feet or less) that offers some pretty views, a pleasant leg-stretch climbing up the side of a mountain, and some gorgeous vistas of Sherando Lake itself.
Sherando Lake Recreation Area is definitely a treasure -- some even call it the "jewel" of the Blue Ridge. At the park there are picnic tables and grills, beach on lake, hiking trails, camping spots, and a playground. The amount of parking provided indicates that it's a popular spot.
Families enjoy picnicking in this shaded and woody area, while relaxing on the sandy beach of the 25-acre spring-fed lake. North Fork Back Creek feeds Sherando Lake and provides the soundtrack for several of its trails.
We went during early November. The autumn foliage had long since peaked, but that's okay -- the mostly leafless trees allowed sweeping views of the lake throughout the hike, as well as a beautiful view along the ridge.
You start the hike at the wash house parking lot, as the loop hike starts right behind the wash house, following the trail as it climbs the mountain. The sign indicates a there-and-back hike to the Sherando Overlook.
The first half of the hike is a steady incline 230 feet up to the ridge of the mountain overlooking Sherando Lake. Although you lose sight of the lake to the left below, you're swallowed by the woods until you can start seeing through the treeline to the ridges beyond on the right.
When we came to the overlook, there was kind of a "meh" moment -- it's really not that great, so don't make this the reason you come on this invigorating little hike -- then we followed the trail as it zig zagged back down the side of the mountain to the lake, during most of which you can hear the sound of rushing falls.
Although the loop (on alltrails) points back to the beach, instead head to the lakesside picnic area -- both are about the same distance, although by heading toward the picnic area, you'll have some slight elevation gain that again gets the heart pounding.
But the real reason are the views of the lake, especially in late fall through the trees, these made the hike. It's probably just 100 feet or less elevation gain -- I didn't have a tracker on -- but the woods are lovely, and the occasional glimpses of the views through the trees quite pretty.
Having the park virtually to ourselves made this a magical hike in a really beautiful place. I suspect that during the height of the season, the hordes of other visitors might diminish the pleasure of the hike a bit, but don't let that dissuade you from visiting, if you haven't been yet.
Getting there: 96 Sherando Lake Rd, Lyndhurst, VA 22952
Hours: Dawn through dusk (the park is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.)